FDU alum offers slice of Italy in N.J.
Try a Neapolitan-style margherita pizza at the Lombardi Pizza Co. Margherita pizza is the classic mix of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.
By Kenna Caprio
On his third trip to Italy, Peter Lombardi trained with a master pizza chef in Naples.
Returning home, he decided to apply what he learned and experienced abroad to starting a business in New Jersey. A food truck business, focusing only on pizza.
“It’s the most popular food here, and they still make it better there,” says Lombardi of pizza’s popularity in the United States and its craftsmanship in Italy.
The 28-year-old Fairleigh Dickinson University graduate spends most days in his pizza food truck making Neapolitan-style pizzas for the lunchtime crowd near Menlo Park Mall in Edison, New Jersey.
But before Lombardi started making custom pizzas for a living, he took advantage of FDU’s study abroad opportunities and traveled to Italy for a week. “I still talk to a lot (of students) from that trip even though we only spent a week together,” he says.
Lombardi also continues to apply what he learned in a restaurant management class with Joseph Tormey, Senior Lecturer in the International School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
“One of the final projects was design our own restaurant from the ground up,” and give a “whole presentation at the end of the semester. I used a lot of skills from that class later on,” says Lombardi. “Everyone I talk to, I tell them that they should do that program.”
Armed with his FDU hospitality education and Italian pizza training, Lombardi started looking for a space to open a restaurant after working for Nomad Pizza in Hopewell for two years. Nomad Pizza has a food truck, and based on their success coupled with the popularity of food trucks, Lombardi opted to buy a truck of his own.
“People assume that because it’s a food truck that it’s cheap street food, but it’s very gourmet. Once people come, they come back. I see the same faces,” he says.
The retrofitted food truck hosts a Valoriani wood-fired oven from Italy and plenty of counter space for Lombardi to work with his organic and fresh ingredients.
“Every week I have a standing appointment for cheese,” he says. That cheese comes from Lioni Latticini in Union and is made fresh everyday, “within ten minutes of where I live.” Other ingredients come from Applegate Farms, which offers organic meat and deli items, and, in the summer, from Lombardi’s own garden. He’s growing arugula, basil, tomatoes and figs in anticipation of the summer season.
“(It’s) a minimalist approach to gourmet pizza,” he says.
Currently, the menu features five different types of pies: margherita, with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil; marinara, with no cheese; bianco, white pizza with fresh ricotta; spinach, with organic spinach, mozzarella, garlic and fontina cheese; and spicy sopressata, a margherita base with Applegate Farms meat.
“Everyone wants to be a top chef. I just wanted to focus on one thing and do that better than everyone else to succeed,” says Lombardi.
FDU grad and pizza-maker Peter Lombardi (left) stands in his food truck with sous chef Damon Toto.